Harajuku, Land of Colorful Trends: 18 Ways to Indulge in Japanese Pop Culture

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  • HARAJUKU
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  • What do you think of when you hear about Harajuku? It may be a parade of vividly dressed “Harajuku girls” akin to the characters you might see from time to time in your weekly anime. Maybe it could be an image of the latest cutting edge fashions coming down the runway, or perhaps you visualize the grandeur of Meiji Jingu Shrine, most likely the most famous shrine known to tourists?

    Truth is, not just one, but every one of these images can be realized once you drop in to world-famous Harajuku, pop culture mecca of Japan! Herein we will show you 18 ways to fully take advantage of everything pop, kawaii, trendy, and crazy Harajuku has to offer!

    1. Yoyogi Park

    yoyogi-park

    A huge park that is not only one of the most popular parks for sakura viewing, Yoyogi Park is also a great place to just relax, walk your dog, have a picnic!

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    There are also large events like Flea Markets with over 500 stalls on a weekend morning, as well as international festivals from time to time. For more information, please check the schedule below!

    Yoyogi Park*Automatic translation

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    2. Harajuku Fashion Walk

    harajuku-fashion-walk

    If you dream of seeing those colorfully decked out Harajuku girls of your imagination, there is an event just for you! Harajuku Fashion Walk, run by colorful Harajuku guy Junnyan, is a monthly parade in which participants can come freely dressed in vivids, pastels, or even goth to join in a walking route through major spots in Harajuku.

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    Even if you don’t dress up you can still join in on the walk to take snaps of all the fashionable girls (and guys) and make a ton of fashionista pals! These days, the number of foreigner participants is slowly increasing, thanks to Junnyan’s efforts in making this event worldwide! It’s even held in places like Singapore and Paris!

    Harajuku Fashion Walk

    3. Kiddyland

    kiddyland

    Want to bring a little piece of kawaii back with you? Don’t forget to swing by Japan’s greatest toy amusement park, Kiddyland!

    You can get your hands on all the Rilakkuma, Sailor Moon, Minions, and more! New products are released quite often, so you will never be bored of this uber-kawaii universe!

    Kiddyland

    4. Meiji Jingu

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    Those who are looking for a quiet spot away from all the hustle and bustle of Harajuku can enjoy a peaceful time at Meiji Jingu Shrine. As you walk through the forest that leads to the shrine, the sound of the leaves crunching under your feet and the slight breeze may give you a calming effect.

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    If you are lucky you might be able to witness a Japanese-style wedding parading through. Talk about a serene oasis away from the city, in the city.

    Meiji Jingu Shrine

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    5. Eat famous crepes

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    Eating a crepe in Harajuku is almost an absolute must. It probably would not be an exaggeration to say that crepes symbolize Harajuku! Although this food was not originally a Japanese invention, it is quite popular among tourists, young girls and those with a sweet tooth. The best part is that you can watch the workers transform the yellowy eggy batter into a crispy yet soft wrap with your topping of choice inside! (Usually strawberries, kiwi, other fruits, sometimes cake and even salad!)

    crepe

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    The 3 most famous shops you need to check out are: Santa Monica Crepes*(Automatic translation), Marion Crepes*(Automatic translation), and Cafe Crepe Angels Heart. Funnily, these 3 are clustered next to each other on Takeshita Street. Do we spy a hint of rivalry? There is even a new shop called Japan Crepe*(Automatic translation), that offers gluten-free crepes!

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    As the cost is quite doable at 3-500 yen, this is easily the most popular snack to have when you visit Harajuku!

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    6. Take purikura

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    Oh, the silly faces and funny poses, these little photobooth pictures may just be for laughs but they are strangely addicting! Along with Japan’s ever-evolving technology, you can elongate your legs and arms, enlarge your eyes, put makeup on your bare face…. basically fraud (詐欺) as many Japanese see it.

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    But remember, it’s all in the name of fun! Also, it can be a nice memory to remind you of your trip to Japan many years later…just don’t miss out on it!

    7. Find the Cat Man (表参道の猫男)/Seifuku Ojisan (セーラ服おじさん)

    neko-otoko

    Ever wanted to play “Where’s Waldo?” in Tokyo, here is a great opportunity! If you stroll around Omotesando, Harajuku, or even Shibuya Center-gai, you might get a glimpse of a popular city fixture also known as “Neko-Otoko, ” (Cat man), a middle-aged man pushing around a baby carriage full of fluffy, fabulous cats! You are considered lucky if able to catch him!

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    Yet another infamous Waldo of Harajuku is “Seira-fuku Ojisan,” another middle aged man with a flowing white beard who hangs out around the Harajuku or Shibuya area decked out in a girl’s sailor-style high school uniform. The story is, that he actually works at a famous company after graduating from Waseda University, one of the best universities in Japan. Apparently he wears the uniform because he “enjoys the concept of kawaii.” So if you see him please make sure to say hi, as he is friendly and quite willing to take photos!

    8. Be in a fashion snap

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    When you head straight out from Omotesando Exit towards the Laforet Mall direction, you may get approached by some Japanese man or woman asking you for a photo. Of course, be aware that it might sound fishy at first, so after you’ve checked that yes indeed the guy has a camera, you should then proceed to ask for what media outlet the photo is for. However, Harajuku is especially known for being a sort of “fashion paparazzi ground,” as many photographers know that Harajuku is where all the fashionable people hang out.

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    If you are interested, you can spy even more photographers lurking around the Lawson across from Kiddyland. Try to look nonchalant yet stylish, and you may see yourself in a magazine, on a website like
    TokyoFashion or Street Girls Snap*(Automatic translation)!

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    9. Takeshita Street

    Possibly the most famous street in Japan, Takeshita Dori is just a few seconds from Harajuku Station, a long street lined with stylish and cute clothing, accessory, and sweets shops.

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    It’s always crowded with people, so it might be best to go earlier in the morning or in the evening, as other times and weekends will be even more abnormally packed with locals and tourists who can’t wait to get their hands on the next kawaii trend!

    Takeshita Street Official Website*Automatic translation

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    10. Omotesando Hills

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    For those who are more into classy and elegant designer fashions versus young and cute, Omotesando Hills is a must-visit.

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    Over 100 shops by Japanese and foreign designers are waiting for you! Sometimes events featuring celebrities are even held here, so if you just happen to be there, you could be in for a nice surprise.

    Omotesando Hills

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    11. Theme cafes

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    Along with kawaii fashion comes kawaii cafes! Harajuku is known to house many limited-time only “cute character” cafes; most recently including My Little Pony,(*Automatic translation) Pompompurin Cafe,(*Automatic translation)

    and now is the home of the kawaii color explosion that is the Kawaii Monster Cafe!

    12. Design Festa Gallery

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    Design Festa Gallery is a unique space for artists to exhibit their pieces for the public to view. All artists are free to exhibit without any cost in any of the 21 show rooms available.

    This is another place to go if you enjoy art and getting away from the city buzz.

    Design Festa Gallery

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    13. Cat Street

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    A street running for about a half mile perpendicular to each side of Omotesando, this could very well be the hub of street fashion trends. Nearby is an area dubbed “Ura-hara,” (meaning “the back of Harajuku).

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    You will be able to find less mainstream fashion and more unique and niche shops and hipster teenagers.

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    14. Relax at Omohara no Mori

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    Drinking coffee in the middle of a garden on the rooftop of a building in Tokyo? Yes, it’s possible. Just go to the 6th floor of Tokyu Omotesando Plaza and relax on the terrace overlooking the city.

    Tokyu Omotesando Plaza

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    15. Laforet

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    Looking for kitschy super-trendy fashion? Want to be on the forefront of fashion? Laforet is where all the Harajuku hipster kids get their digs, as there is certainly a wide variety of styles from gothic lolita to sweet girly, to popular overseas brands like Joyrich or Vivienne Westwood.

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    If you are afraid the prices might eat your wallet, it might be best to come to Harajuku during late January or July when the department store holds a 5 day bargain sale, where you can get items marked down as much as 50-80%! However, be prepared to battle the masses of young female shopaholics crazy for a bargain…Also, there is a museum on the top floor and event space just outside the entrance if you need to take a breather.

    Laforet Harajuku

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    16. Get your hair done at a salon in Omotesando

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    Just by walking around Japan, you will see throngs of stylish Japanese women with equally fashionable and gorgeous, healthy-looking hair. Omotesando is actually known to house hundreds of hair salons, and each one strives to stand out from the rest by even sometimes sending scouts on the street who will try to offer you a discounted service if you agree to have your hair done when they ask. Since the usual haircut, straightening and other services are typically twice or even triple the cost outside of Japan, you should try to get your money’s worth by trying out a salon!

    A common website to use for your salon search is: Hot Pepper Beauty*Automatic translation

    17. Brunch at one of many pancake restaurants

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    Come and experience the pancake craze for yourself! Harajuku has several divine pancake shops and here are just a few:

    Bills

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    Eggs ‘n Things*Automatic translation

    pancake-days-tokyo

    Pancake Days*Automatic translation

    pancake-cafe-kaila

    Cafe Kaila*Automatic translation

    18. 6% Doki Doki

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    This is where the magic of Harajuku kawaii happens. The shop’s shocking hot pink exterior is Art Director Sebastian Masuda’s creation, which first offered Mexican imports when it opened in 1995 but now serves up clothing, accessories, and shoes brimming with Masuda’s creative usage of vivid pinks, yellows, purples and recurring motifs like hearts, stars, ribbons, unicorns. It also shouldn’t be a surprise that Masuda is also the mastermind behind the aforementioned Kawaii Monster Cafe.

    6% Doki Doki*Automatic translation

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    Conclusion

    Hopefully after you have gone through this list, your dreams and fantasies of the Harajuku you imagine will somehow be realized! So now you know that this is not just a crazy technicolor pop fantasy land, that there are also places of serenity and peace, we can guarantee that you will be able to enjoy your experience to the max! Check out the Japanese pop culture land that is Harajuku!

    Related Articles:

    Shop Kawaii! Get That Japanese Style in Harajuku
    Harajuku Fashion Walk: a must-see for fashion lovers
    Harajuku Crêpes – a Famous, Sweet Snack!